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Arizona Thanksgiving

Part 3: San Pedro River and Saguaro National Park


Met up with Judy again at the San Pedro River Inn the next morning for a guided bird walk around the property, led by Michael the Manager and Ericka, a perky local expert!  I got there before everyone else and just wandered around, picking up Green-tailed Towhee in amongst the Whiteys and a nice female Pyrrhuloxia for the trip.  Eventually we had a nice small crowd including a couple of "snowbirds" from London Ontario, and another "couple", one from the Bay Area and one from Las Vegas!  It started off very nippy as per usual, but it was another gorgeous, calm day, with the common stuff around the house including Whiteys, Ruby-crowned Kinglets, and Butterbutts.  I was grousing about a raven flying around that to me sounded no different than ours, but Ericka pointed out that Chihuahuans don't have as much of a wedge to the tail as Commons, and later I heard one that sounded more like one to me, so I felt safe counting it.  A Curve-billed Thrasher whistled rudely, and a Belted Kingfisher was hanging around the little pond along with Yellowthroats and Marsh Wrens.  A young Vermilion Flycatcher was sitting on the stick usually occupied by the resident Black Phoebe, but Mr. Phoebe eventually showed up and shooed him off!  Just before we headed off I spotted a White-winged Dove sitting on the TV antenna.

  We then headed down the path around the pond, picking up Lincoln's and Song Sparrows (of the pale phallax race), but the resident Gilded Flicker making an appearance got everyone excited!  There was also a Ladder-backed Woodpecker bouncing around along with lots of Gilas, one who was trying to figure out what to do with a large nut he had found!


Judy Pike (closest) and others on a guided tour of the area around the San Pedro River Inn.  At right, Ericka checks out the property’s pond for a kingfisher or Black Phoebe


A Gila Woodpecker tries unsuccessfully to emulate his cousin the Acorn Woodpecker!

As we made our way through the grasslands we picked up several sparrows including Vesper, Savannah, a single Brewer's, and a Lark Bunting.  A couple of Say's Phoebes were flopping around, and a beautiful pair of Pyrrhuloxias showed up in a mesquite along with a pair of Abert's Towhees.  A "Lilian’s" Meadowlark flew by that wasn't showing us the standard "hyper" Eastern Meadowlark flight pattern, and I was informed that Lilian’s are an exception to the rule (which helps a whole lot if they're as "laid-back" as Westerns)!  But Ericka gave me a great picture of how to visualize the amount of white in the tail of the two, so that was very helpful. 

  We stopped at a little marsh to try and scare up a Swamp Sparrow (I think a few people actually spotted it), and had a couple of American Pipits flying overhead, which Michael had never had on the property before!   Everyone "ooohed" at a Loggerhead Shrike and a nice Harrier; a Gray Flycatcher also caused a lot of excitement, and a "Red-shafted" Flicker put on a show while I was busy shedding my layers (it had warmed up that quickly)!  I told the others I would catch up (rolling your jacket up and lashing it to your fanny pack is a major production), only Michael had taken them through some scrub that had no trail, so I promptly lost them!  Thankfully they weren't far (I knew they were headed towards the river) and Ericka and Judy came back and rescued me!

  The river was beautiful, but you could see where the water level from the monsoons last summer had come up so high as to put the whole area we had just walked through under water!  It had also knocked down several large trees, so we had to pick our way carefully. Things were quieting down by now, but yet another Gray Flycatcher showed up, along with another mystery Empid that we never could get a good look at, but Michael suspected Dusky.  A robust "chip" alerted us to the presence of a Myrtle Warbler right overhead, so everyone got a good look at him.  Down the river we flushed a Great Blue Heron, and three "Mexican Ducks" flew over.  Several Common Ground Doves were in the brush, while a Cooper's Hawk batted around and a great Golden Eagle soared low overhead!  But the fellow from Las Vegas spotted the prize: an Eastern Phoebe by the bank!  That made for a phoebe sweep, a state bird for me, and a life bird for Judy!  So we were all happy campers!


Even after the devastation of the monsoon flooding, the riparian forest is still impressive!   At right, Ericka poses next to a shrub that’s covered in flood debris!

Birds and bugs along the river...


Funereal Duskywing (really looking like a cloak at right), Golden Eagle, and a lost Eastern Phoebe that was a life bird for Judy and a state bird for me!

Michael was going to continue on but I was pooping out (and Judy and I had plans for a Cold Stone milk shake J), so Judy and Ericka and I wandered back to the parking lot, sharing war stories of birding tales (she had gone on that VENT cruise to Attu, so I wanted her take on it), then kissed Ericka goodbye before heading to Sierra Vista (where a Sharpie flew over the river as we crossed it along Hereford Road).  After our shakes (I had the dark chocolate peppermint ice cream with coconut shavings—YUM!!) we kissed goodbye and I headed to Tucson with every intention of checking into the La Quinta by the airport, but I was gonna get in early, so decided to swing by the eastern portion of Saguaro National Park and see if I could kick up any new butterflies!  Which I did: in addition to lots more Sleepy Oranges, had plenty of Dainty Sulphurs, Checkered Whites, and White Checkered Skippers! But there were tons of butterflies there!  Bird-wise picked up Phainopepla, Cactus and Rock Wrens, Black-throated Sparrows, and Black-tailed Gnats for the day.

  Headed into Tucson after that in preparation for Thanksgiving with the Melsons (Floyd and June, and their son Mark and his family), who I thought were checking into the same hotel (their daughter Liz lives in Tucson), and when I got there I thought to myself, "Wow; Mark’s really splurging!" Come to find out they were really staying in the other La Quinta, the one ironically that I had told myself that I was gonna stay at the next time I visited Liz because it was right next door to that restaurant we had breakfast at and was close to where she lived! But rather than move everything over there I decided to stay put and commute!


Trail at the Javelina Picnic Area, Saguaro NP, along with a cactus patch that was just loaded with butterflies!


White Checkered Skippers


Checkered Whites; females (below) are more heavily marked.



This Tailed Orange (two left shots) is joined by a Sleepy Orange (two right shots)


Dainty Sulphur (left) and two Reakirt's Blues


Sleepy Oranges filling their tanks...  The backlit individual center right shows the stunning black wing borders which you normally never see unless you glimpse them in flight! (Note the rolled-up tongue on the guy at left!)

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